Over the past recent decades, few live-action Disney movies have been more than trite scripts acted by semi-famous starts. Hannah Montana: The Movie, however, surprisingly strays from this unfortunate trend.
Based on a television show about the adolescence of a fictional pop star, the movie includes a well thought-out story, some solid acting and decent directing choices by Peter Chelsom that make it tolerable and even enjoyable for adults and children alike.
Hannah Montana: The Movie follows two weeks in the life of Disney character Miley Stewart (Miley Cyrus) who leads a double life as the renowned pop star Hannah Montana.
Though her career is on the rise, her father, Robby Stewart (Billy Ray Cyrus), notices through several serious incidents that his daughter's attitude and priorities seem to be taking a downhill turn.
His solution: trick her into spending two weeks at their rural hometown in Tennessee where she can reconnect with her roots and get her double life in order.
Certainly, viewers come to the movie with the suspicion that it will just be a 90-minute big-screen music video featuring all Cyrus, all the time. The film, however, pleasantly proves these suspicions false.
Cyrus only sings when the situation naturally presents itself in the plot: a Hannah Montana concert that opens the film, a fundraiser hoedown to save her hometown, alone with her father working on a new song.
The contrast in settings that Chelsom sets up between the material culture metropolis of Santa Monica, Calif. where the film begins and the lush, wide-open scenery of Crowley Corners, Tenn. serves as an excellent visual aid for Cyrus' transformation from selfish diva back to honest country girl.
The only questionable aspect of Chelsom's directing is his occasional choice to throw in inexplicable slow motion action shots reminiscent of Zack Snyder's work in 300 or Watchmen. Though these are few, their presence seems unnecessary and pushes the intentions of the scenes in question from dramatic to almost comedic for viewers.
Overall, Hannah Montana: The Movie presents a fairly complicated example to children and adults alike about identity problems and the struggles of growing up.
The conclusion of the film seems to be less about synthesizing the characters of Miley and Hannah than it is about opening the door for Cyrus to break away from her Hannah Montana persona. This message, though only an implied part of the movie's ending, sets a very important precedence for Cyrus who has slowly been trying to break away from Disney (and her Hannah Montana self) and establish herself as a professional singer.
Hannah Montana: The Movie has its problems - moments of cheesy comedy, tacky morality and the unfortunate consequence of making any child who sees it sing along afterward for hours - but otherwise it is an interesting picture that compliments Cyrus far more than it mocks her.